Press your spaceface close to mine

But House Chimps? Really?

Posted by Sunday on Mar 21, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Apologies for a lack of content, dear readers, but I grudgingly had to write something “for real,” as the punk shits say. Somebody’s got to pay for the dilithium crystals to run this thing (which based on my pay, will not be me).

I’ve also struggled to compose something regarding the death of Arthur C. Clarke, but I got nothin’. Sorry. I just wasn’t a dedicated fan of his, and I have a certain amount of shame over my impassioned mockery of his TV show, Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World. GalacticMu commenter and old friend of mine, Shane (he’s getting really old, like with kids and everything), reminded me that as a teenager I called it Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Crazy Shit in lieu of being able to recall the real name. The program infuriated me: the somewhat smug old Clarke sitting there, introducing himself erroneously as the “inventor” of the communications satellite, after which he’d give compelling evidence for something mysterious – only to end each episode with haughty denial that any such mysterious thing could exist. Believers of strange events/phenomenon were often chided in his lulling, mealy British accent, often prompting me to shout at the TV “SHOULDN’T THIS SHOW BE CALLED ARTHUR C. CLARKE’S WORLD UTTERLY WITHOUT MYSTERY?”

It wasn’t until I was older that I appreciated him for the person he was. I appreciated that he fled to Buddhist paradise Sri Lanka (I can attest as an atheist forcibly surrounded by religion at all times: Buddhism is not a bad choice) and intently lived out the rest of his science-fiction loving years running a diving school and living with friends (which I always misread as “driving school,” a visual that makes me laugh and laugh. “Merge left here – I said merge left! There is perfectly reasonable scientific explanation for merging left!”). I appreciated that his wit never left, and that he honored and loved space travel until his last days. And I especially appreciated that he famously predicted the use of House Chimps by the year 1960. He’d apparently never actually met a monkey and did not know that you’d be far better off paying a hobo to come due chores for you.

This one’s for you, Arthur.


I Have a Neurochemical Partiality to You, Peter Watts

Posted by Sunday on Mar 16, 2008 at 10:25 am

When I am at my most pessimistic and feel that even the grocery checkers dead faux-smile might send me into rampage over the mockery that is “hopefulness,” I find the best thing to do is indulge the feelings*. The primary way of doing this – like the primary way of waking up consists of coffee and Sudafed shooters – is to visit Peter Watt’s blog, No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons.

Peter Watts is the author of some of the best science fiction writing of the last decade, namely the Rifters Trilogy (just to be confusing, against Watts’ wishes the publisher split the last book in the trilogy, Behemoth, into two separate books, bringing the “trilogy” count to four) and the Hugo-nominated Blindsight.

Watts is lumped together in my mind with people like Anthony Bourdain: crusty, self-damagingly intelligent, pessimistic and the exact sort of person you want at the bar with you. I can identify with Anthony Bourdain not because I appreciate his chain-smoking while eating blood sausage, but because he recognizes his own Schadenfreude. Watts is very much the same way; to not be drawn into his visceral delight of the broken, the flawed and the messy is to not be a thoughtful human.

Much is explained by Watts’ training as a marine biologist. It also helps me to think of him at home, in some kind of tatty, aged robe, ignoring the fetid litterbox of his deranged and hostile cats by writing an exegesis on the neurological functionality of zombies. I find it a much more sane than thinking of Stephen King, each morning mechanically propped up at his immense oak desk overlooking all of Maine, drinking Diet Pepsi and smashing out an entire novel before noon. A biologist, I can imagine, is doing the same kind of things I am: burning one’s self of hot frying pans in the kitchen and then going into stuporous reveries about the biological nature of pain (and then disregarding them in favor of eating something comprised largely of whipped cream for breakfast). Not that I am in the same intellectual ballpark as Watts, but I imagine that I would be allowed to… uh… wax his balls? Grease his bats? I don’t know anything about baseball but I know a fair amount about double entendres, and I fear I’ve ventured into the wrong territory.


Halcyon and I were just the other evening discussing the possibility that Asperger Syndrome is an evolutionary specialism designed to combat the uncategorizable mass input of modern human existence. Why? Peter Watts is to blame.

* While in this state I am still capable of recognizing beauty (generally in the form of cake) I just don’t believe it to be the transcendent, hand-that-beats-all that the luckier among us do. The existence of cake in the universe does not make me believe that cake is the prevailing force. Entropy and chaos are still the prevailing forces. I’ve dealt with chaos cake before, and it is not pleasurable.

0 Posted in Literature

Mutant 59: The Plastic-Eaters

Posted by Sunday on Mar 6, 2008 at 9:50 am

There was a time when serious books were allowed ostentatious names, and those days are long buried under the castoff knickers of the Pussycat Dolls.  Books like this one:


I have not yet read it, but I am looking forward to the dreadful looming horror of the plastic-eaters.  Kit Pedler was a science adviser for Dr. Who, and later was partially responsible for the BBC science fiction series Doomwatch.  From what I read, “The Plastic Eaters” was the pilot episode for Doomwatch, the plot of which this novel is based.  I will keep you all updated to the delights of Mutant 59: The Plastic-Eaters.

0 Posted in Literature

Book Review: Sun of Suns

Posted by Sunday on Feb 20, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Sun of Suns, by Karl Schroeder (Tor, 2006)

In this first book of a proposed series, we are introduced to Hayden Griffin and his giant gas-bag world of Virga. Hayden seeks revenge, as all good pirate-raised adolescents do, and no amount of sword fighting or nefarious ne’er-do-wells can slow him. Or can they?

Spoiler-bloat after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

1 Posted in Literature